Malawi is a country located in the region of Eastern Africa. In early April 2012, Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika died unexpectedly in a heart attack. He had been in power since 2005. Mutharika was replaced by Vice President Joyce Banda, who thus became the first female head of state in southern Africa. However, Banda lost the presidential election in May 2014 and was replaced by Mutharika’s brother Peter Mutharika who also won the presidential election in 2019. However, the election was disputed and after a complaint from the opposition a new election was held on 23 May 2020.
According to the constitution, the vice president is to take over the presidential office if the president dies but in Malawi’s case the situation was complicated. Vice President Joyce Banda had been excluded from the ruling party and formed her own party following a conflict with Mutharika in 2010 (see Modern History). Immediately after the death of the president, the Minister of Information announced that Banda could not take over as president because she now belonged to the opposition. The play led to speculation that the inner circle around Mutharika planned to try to circumvent the constitution and install Mutharika’s brother, Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika, on the presidential post. However, Banda himself demanded that the constitution be followed and supported by the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Malawi, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
It all ended with Banda being installed as President on Easter Day.
The band’s first action was to dismiss the country’s police chief who had been criticized for his role during the hostile demonstrations that claimed 19 lives in the summer of 2011 (see Modern History).
In other ways, too, Banda showed that she did not intend to follow in her representative’s footsteps. In an attempt to gain access to new support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government in May wrote down the value of the country’s currency, a reform that the IMF has long called for. At one point, the currency became a third less worthy, triggering an extensive hoarding of goods in the cities.
The president also decided to repeal the law prohibiting homosexual acts.
In the spring of 2013, four former ministers and eight senior officials were arrested and charged with planning to overthrow the government a year earlier. Among the defendants was Peter Mutharika.
Banda also tried to do something about the extensive corruption. About a third of the state’s revenue is estimated to disappear in the form of bribes and other fraud. In the summer of 2013, Banda appointed Paul Mphwiyo as new budget manager at the Ministry of Finance. Mphwiyo immediately began reviewing the public finance system, making it more difficult for fraudsters to get through payouts without review. As a result, Mphwiyo acquired many enemies. In the early autumn he was subjected to a murder attempt.
When it became clear during the autumn that extensive fraud had taken place within the administration, Banda dismissed the entire government.
At the end of May 2014, presidential elections that Banda lost to Peter Mutharika were held. The change of presidential post happened immediately after the election.
In 2015 and 2016, the legal aftermath of the huge embezzlement of state funds that came to be known as the “cashgate” continued. Dozens of people were prosecuted or suspended from their services and one of the top executives was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Banda, who moved abroad after his defeat against Mutharika, was also accused of involvement in the cashgate and was called for by the government in the summer of 2017.
A year later, serious corruption charges (see Calendar) were directed against President Mutharika, which he dismissed as an attempt to throw him ahead of the upcoming 2019 presidential election.
Ahead of the May 2019 elections, the two major opposition parties Malawi’s Congress Party (MCP) and the People’s Party (PP) formed an alliance to defeat Mutharika. Banda, who returned to Malawi a few months before the election, chose to refrain from candidacy. Instead, she stood behind MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera.
During the election campaign, Mutharika pointed out that inflation fell during his tenure and that the road and electricity networks were expanded. However, only around a tenth of the residents still have access to electricity and electricity cuts are commonplace. Continued corruption, a growing foreign debt and food shortages have eroded support for Mutharika. Around half of the country’s residents are classified as poor by the World Bank and the country is dependent on aid.
Despite the problems, Mutharika won the election with just over 38 percent of the vote, closely followed by Chakwera. DPP also won the parliamentary elections held at the same time. The opposition, which reported nearly 150 concerns during the election process, appealed the result and demonstrations spread across the country (read more in the Calendar).
In February 2020, the Constitutional Court annulled the election results and issued new election orders. The judges strongly criticized the electoral authority and said, among other things, that cheating and contravention occurred to such an extent during the election that the result was not fair. The judgment has been described as historic and a victory for democracy and the independence of the judiciary.
Mutharika was not satisfied with the verdict and tried to stop the election, but in vain. On June 23, the Malawians returned to the polls. According to forecasts, opposition presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera had a good chance of winning.
Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Malawi / Republic of Malawi
republic, unitary state
Head of State
Peter Mutharika (2014–)
Head of government
Peter Mutharika (2014–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Democratic Progress Party (DPP) 62, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 55, United Democratic Front (UDF) 10, People’s Party (PP) 5, Small Parties 5, Independent Candidates 55 (2019) 1
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Democratic Progress Party (DPP) 51, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 48, People’s Party (PP) 26, United Democratic Front (UDF) 14, Small Part 2, Independent Candidates 52 (2014)
just over 74 percent in the 2019 presidential election; Missing information for the 2019 parliamentary elections
presidential and parliamentary elections 2024
- a mandate could not be added due to deathsources